James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
MR. CARNEY: Good Monday, everyone. Thanks for being here. Hope you had a nice weekend, hot as it was. Before I take your questions, let me tell you that on Thursday, June 6th, as part of his Middle Class Jobs and Opportunity Tour, the President will travel to Mooresville Middle School in Mooresville, North Carolina to deliver remarks and experience firsthand the school’s cutting-edge curriculum through digital learning.
In his State of the Union address, the President laid out his belief that the middle class is the engine of economic growth in our country. To reignite that engine, there are three areas we need to invest in: jobs, skills, and opportunity. We need to build on the progress we’ve made over the last four years, and that means investing in those areas that are already creating good-paying, stable jobs that can support a middle-class family.
With that, I will take your questions. Julie Pace.
Q Thanks, Jay. I wanted to get the White House’s response to what’s happening in Turkey right now, particularly Erdogan questioning the legitimacy of the protestors in what seems to be an increased police reaction to those protests.
MR. CARNEY: Thank you for the question. We continue to follow the events in Turkey closely and with concern. As we stated from the outset last week, the United States supports full freedom of expression and assembly, including the right to peaceful protest, as fundamental to any democracy.
We believe that the vast majority of the protestors have been peaceful, law-abiding, ordinary citizens exercising their rights. The United States has serious concerns about the reports of excessive use of force by police and large numbers of injuries and damage to property. We call on these events to be investigated and to urge all parties to refrain from provoking violence.
Q Has the President spoken with Erdogan since these protests started?
MR. CARNEY: He has not. I have no calls to report. I refer you to the State Department for any outreach that they might have had with the Turks, but no calls from here to report.
Q And just more broadly, given Turkey is important to so many of the issues that the U.S. deals with in that part of the world, how key is stability in Turkey to the President?
MR. CARNEY: Turkey is a very important ally. And look, all democracies have issues that they need to work through and we would expect the government to work through this in a way that respects the rights of their citizens. I think that we continue to work with Turkey on a range of issues — as a NATO ally and as a key player in the region — and we look forward to doing that.
Q And just on a totally separate topic — Darrell Issa over the weekend called you a “paid liar” for the administration. I wanted to give you an opportunity to respond to his comment.
MR. CARNEY: I hadn’t heard that. That’s amazing. (Laughter.) I’m not going to get into a back and forth with Chairman Issa. I think that what our focus is and has been is the need to find out all the inappropriate activity that occurred; make sure, as the President insists, that those who are responsible for inappropriate, outrageous activity be held accountable; that processes are put into place at the IRS so that something like this cannot happen again.
The President acted, as you know, in response to the independent Inspector General’s report by making clear that he was outraged by the behavior; by acting quickly to install new leadership at the IRS; by instructing that new leadership to conduct a thorough review that would examine the behavior, hold those accountable who were responsible for it, and to examine the overall culture at the IRS to make sure that these kinds of things can’t happen again.
I would note that when I spoke about the situation I was referring to the findings of the independent Inspector General, who — let’s be clear — said that he both in testimony and in his report found no evidence that outsiders — those outside the IRS — influenced the behavior that took place there. That is the conclusion of the independent Inspector General, and we certainly have seen no other evidence to contradict that.
However, the President is interested in getting all the facts, and that is why he has instructed that the new leadership at the IRS conduct this review. We are interested in legitimate congressional oversight. That’s an important component in a situation like this to finding all the facts and making sure that remedial action is taken. And, as you know, there is a criminal investigation that is being undertaken by the Department of Justice.
So I think there is ample demonstration of this administration’s interest in getting all the facts and holding those who are responsible accountable.
Q To follow up on Turkey, does the unrest in Turkey make it harder to deal with the Syria situation?
MR. CARNEY: Well, we work very closely with Turkey on the situation in Syria, with our allies and partners in the region, and we’ll continue to do that.
I believe, as I said, that the — we expect and we believe that the Turkish government will appropriately work through this situation. We call on the events that occurred to be investigated and urge all parties to refrain from provoking violence. And we think that the right of free expression and assembly, those rights are fundamental to democracy.
And we have concerns about some of the response, but we certainly expect the Turkish government to work through this.
Q There was a story in the paper over the weekend saying there was some displeasure inside the White House with Eric Holder. Does the President feel like Eric Holder is becoming a distraction?
MR. CARNEY: It’s important to note that, I believe in the article you’re referring to, the Chief of Staff was quoted on the record, and in that statement he spoke for the President and he spoke for all of us. And he said that, “The President and his team at the White House believe that the Attorney General has the intellect, experience, and integrity to efficiently run the Department of Justice and not get distracted by the partisans who seem more interested in launching political attacks than cooperating with him to protect the security and constitutional rights of the American people.”
And I think I couldn’t say it any better, so I quoted the Chief of Staff saying it.
Q Just to button down the Issa thing, finally — they point specifically to two instances in the briefing where you said on May 21st, referred to apparent conduct by our IRS officials in Cincinnati; and on May 20th, line IRS employees in Cincinnati improperly scrutinized 501-(c)(4) organizations. When you made those statements –
MR. CARNEY: Those are the findings of the audit conducted by the independent Inspector General, correct? Those are the findings, right? I was citing — and perhaps there are issues that the Chairman has with the IG. I was citing the findings of the independent Inspector General. As you recall, we waited for that report to be released before responding. The President responded I think with appropriate concern and took immediate action, and is continuing to direct those who are responsible for these matters to take action.
Again, the Inspector General concluded in his report and testified to this before Congress that he found no evidence of outside influence on the behavior that was of such great concern to all of us at the IRS. It is also important to note the President has instructed the new acting commissioner of the IRS to conduct a review that looks at this activity; holds responsible those who were responsible for it — holds accountable those who are responsible for it; and takes measures to ensure that it can’t happen again.
Separately, we are cooperating with legitimate congressional oversight. Separately, the Department of Justice has launched a criminal investigation.
So I think it’s important to stick to the facts, look at the work that has been done and build on it — which is what this President wants to do, what the new acting commissioner wants to do, the Treasury Secretary wants to do. And we certainly hope that that’s what the congressional oversight committees hope to do.
Q Robert Gibbs, this morning, called on Darrell Issa to apologize to you. Do you expect or want an apology? And is this the kind of language you think is productive?
MR. CARNEY: I appreciate those who have spoken in my defense, but I would simply say that I am not interested in having a back and forth with Chairman Issa. I am interested in what the President is interested in, in this matter, which is that we take action to ensure that this activity doesn’t happen again; we take action to hold accountable those who are responsible for it; we cooperate with legitimate congressional oversight; and we obviously cooperate with any investigation that the Department of Justice is undertaking.
Those are the things that matter here. And, again, I don’t want to get into a back and forth.
Q And just finally, this weekend, David Plouffe sent out a Tweet that’s pretty inflammatory in itself, bringing up old allegations against Darrell Issa. Is that the kind of back and forth that’s actually productive, moving the agenda forward?
MR. CARNEY: I would simply say that I’m not interested in that back and forth — or having a back and forth with the Chairman. I, again, as I think we’ve just discussed, spoke very carefully and specifically about the findings of the independent Inspector General in his lengthy review of the conduct at the IRS. I spoke, in fact, quite clearly that we have seen no evidence that contradicts the findings of the independent Inspector General. I would point you to the testimony of the former IRS Commissioner that makes clear the lack of involvement of people outside of the IRS, to his knowledge and in his view. And, again, we have no information that would contradict that.
The President’s focus is on taking action to hold accountable those who are responsible for this behavior, taking action to ensure that it never happens again, because it’s very important that the American people have faith that the IRS applies our tax laws fairly across the country. And that’s why he was so outraged by the actions that were reported by the Inspector General, and that is why he has acted in response in the way that he has.
Q So, Jay, on a different IRS subject — has the President seen the IG report — it was supposed to come out tomorrow — which talks about waste at the IRS and it talks about, in fact, the IRS employees using presidential suites at conferences. Does the President think that’s appropriate?
MR. CARNEY: No. Well, in answer to your question, we haven’t seen the report, but, no, he doesn’t think that conduct is appropriate. I would point you to statements released by the acting IRS Commissioner, Danny Werfel, who says, “This conference is an unfortunate vestige from a prior era. Taxpayers should take comfort that a conference like this would not take place today. Sweeping new spending restrictions have been put place at the IRS, and travel and training expenses have dropped more than 80 percent since 2010, and similar large-scale meetings did not take place in 2011, 2012, or 2013.”
And, second, I would point out that the President has made creating an efficient and effective government a priority, a cornerstone of his administration. He believes that everyone in this administration must take their role as stewards of the taxpayer dollar very seriously. That is why in May of 2012 the administration outlined a series of actions for reining in spending and increasing both transparency and oversight of federal conference and travel activity. The federal government spending on travel, which includes conference activity, was reduced by more than $1 billion in fiscal year 2012 as compared to fiscal year 2010.
On travel spending, agencies have lowered their spending on travel — compared to FY 2010 levels — by roughly $2 billion. The Department of Agriculture, for example, reduced travel costs by over $125 million. The Drug Enforcement Administration implemented mandatory policy guidance requiring employees to use lowest-available fares for air travel, and due to this policy alone, DEA achieved over $6.5 million in savings in fiscal year 2012.
These are examples that illustrated a commitment the President has to wringing out waste and abuse of taxpayer dollars. And it’s important to note that Danny Werfel, who is now the acting commissioner over at the IRS, oversaw that process at the OMB when he was at the OMB.
Q How important is this to the White House, a report like this, because of the confidence that is needed in the IRS in order to perform its duties? It doesn’t have enough agents to investigate all of us. It depends upon public trust. Are you concerned that public trust is, in fact, being hurt by both of these scandals? And especially, is, in fact, the IRS a broken agency at this time that needs a thorough review?
MR. CARNEY: The answer is the President is very concerned by the activity that has been reported by the independent Inspector General with regards to the targeting of conservative groups applying for tax exempt status. He is concerned by — and has been — excessive spending by the IRS and other agencies when it comes to conferences and travel, and has taken action accordingly.
It’s very important, and your question implies this, that the American people have faith that the IRS in particular is applying our tax laws in a fair and responsible way. And that’s why he has ordered a review after installing new leadership at the IRS, and he expects that review to be unsparing and to hold accountable people who are responsible for inappropriate conduct.
And we’ll also cooperate with congressional oversight, and we, of course, will cooperate with the Department of Justice’s criminal investigation into this matter. But it is precisely because of the President’s concern that he articulated right away after the IG report was released that these actions are being undertaken.
MR. CARNEY: Yes.
Q Do you believe that Chairman Issa is contributing to trust in the IRS with his oversight by insisting he believes the orders to target conservative groups came out of Washington?
MR. CARNEY: Again, I don’t want to get into a back and forth. We believe that there’s an important role to be played by Congress through legitimate oversight. We take this matter very seriously, which is why the President has ordered the actions that he has ordered, and why the new acting commissioner of the IRS is proceeding with the review that this President and the Secretary of the Treasury committed him to perform.
It’s why we will cooperate with both congressional oversight and Justice Department investigations — because this is a serious matter and it needs to be addressed. And that’s our focus. And I think that when it comes to getting the facts, we need to get them and not make judgments before we have all the facts. And I think that that is why we made the decision to wait for the publication of the independent Inspector General’s report. Even though the issue itself had become public and there was a great demand for comment on it, we believed it was the right thing to do not to comment on it before it was public because it would have been inappropriate in our view to in any way intervene in a process that wasn’t complete. And that is what we did. And when that report became public, the President acted very quickly and he spoke very clearly about his outrage over this conduct.
Q Is the Congress exercising legitimate oversight? Do you see legitimate oversight?
MR. CARNEY: Again, I’m not going to get into a play-by-play or a review of congressional activity day by day, but I believe that congressional oversight — we believe that congressional oversight is important when it’s legitimate, and we think that this is a matter that should be looked at by Congress through the process of legitimate congressional oversight.
But we think it’s important to stay focused on what we know, what the facts are, the information we know from the report conducted by the independent Inspector General, and then to build on that through the review being overseen by the new commissioner at the IRS, through the congressional oversight role and through the investigation undertaken by the Department of Justice.
Q On another subject — can you comment on Ezra Klein’s book indicating that the President has agreed to support his former Secretary of State in 2016?
MR. CARNEY: I confess that I was not aware of that report, but I’ll run out and buy the book or purchase it online. I can assure you the President is not thinking about the next presidential election, having just recently won the last one.
Q If I could ask you quickly, Jay, about the — considering the White House’s fierce efforts to try to stop leaks in terms of national security secrets and the like, today, Bradley Manning’s trial begins and I wanted to get a sense from you. His attorney said just a short time ago — he described him as a young, naïve, but well-intentioned man. What’s the White House’s perspective on Bradley Manning, given the fact that you guys are prosecuting this — the administration is?
MR. CARNEY: Inherent in your question is the recognition that there’s an ongoing trial, so I couldn’t comment on an ongoing trial. I would refer you to the prosecutors in the Department of Justice on that matter. It is certainly our view — broadly speaking, not referring to any specific case — that leaks of national security — sensitive national security information, classified information, can be very harmful to our national security interests.
Q I want to ask you quickly about the comments we heard from the President a short time ago as part of this mental health conference taking place today. He said that the VA is partnering with 24 communities in nine states to help, among other things, reduce wait times, to provide better access to mental health care for veterans; that they’ve recently hired 1,600 mental health providers and there are going to be, I think, 150 summits that he referred to today. How is that going to be paid for?
MR. CARNEY: I would have to refer you to HHS and to the VA. I don’t have that information for you. I think that mental health is an important issue that is often stigmatized. It is a component of our gun violence problem. That is why this conference was a piece of the executive action, a portion of the report that the Vice President put together and the President has acted on when it comes to reducing gun violence in America. But, obviously, it touches on a range of issues that — not just limited to gun violence, but a range of issues.
Q And then on that topic, is the White House concerned that furloughs that we’ve now learned are taking place already at Walter Reed, I think at Fort Belvoir, that 3,500 civil employees are going to be furloughed at those places? That accounts for like 94 percent at Walter Reed. Are you concerned about the impact that will have on services for veterans, including mental health?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I don’t know enough about the specific breakdowns of the furloughs and the effects or impacts in different areas to say with any specificity about what harm might be done. It is certainly the case that the furloughs caused by sequester are having effects across the country — real consequences for real people. We’ve seen it in reports about the elimination, in some cases, of Meals on Wheels programs or the sharp reduction in the provision of Meals on Wheels programs for seniors. We’ve seen it in the elimination of slots for Head Start children. And certainly we’re seeing it in areas affected by the Defense budget.
And we knew that this would be the case, and that is why implementing bad policy was always a bad idea — not something to be celebrated, not something to call a political victory for the tea party or any party, because there are real people who suffer the consequences of these arbitrary, across-the-board cuts — unnecessary cuts in the sense that we can and should do better by making wise decisions about how we reduce our deficit, reducing it in a balanced way, the way that the President has been forward again and again in his budget proposals and in his offers to Republican leaders on Capitol Hill.
So this doesn’t have to happen. It didn’t need to happen. And the President certainly hopes that we can reach a compromise on budget issues that prevents this from continuing to happen.
Q And the final topic is immigration. Chuck Schumer said, I think on “Meet the Press”, that he basically predicted by July 4th that as many as 70 senators would pass a bipartisan immigration bill through the Senate, acknowledging there are going to be some challenges when it reaches the House. Marco Rubio, though, today said that the immigration bill “needs improvements to pass.” So I’m curious what improvements the President thinks need to be made to help this pass.
MR. CARNEY: I’d say a few things. One, the President continues to be encouraged by the progress being made in the Senate on comprehensive immigration reform. That process has now passed through committee, and we look forward to a robust debate and expect the legislation to move forward in a timely manner.
As we have said, the Senate legislation may not contain every specific element we have called for, but it does represent an important step towards the broad principles the President has made clear need to be part of common-sense immigration reform. And so we look forward to continuing to work with Congress as the bill moves forward, and we will continue to advance the President’s priorities as part of that process.
But that process is ongoing; a lot of work remains to be done. We believe that the bill that emerged from committee reflects the President’s principles, and we believe that the bill that passes through the Senate, with bipartisan support, should and needs to reflect the President’s principles. And we will be engaged in that process as it moves through the Senate and beyond.
But I think it’s important to note that there’s a lot of work to be done here, and we’ve seen with a variety of issues over time that victory can be declared early. And this is real work because it’s something that requires bipartisan broad support. That support exists, the President believes, but it requires some elbow grease and some real grit and determination to get from here to completion.
Q Jay, a minute ago you mentioned the reductions in government travel costs. Is there any effort on the part of the President to reduce travel costs — his travel costs?
MR. CARNEY: Well, broadly speaking, the White House, as you know, has been affected by this sequester, and measures have been taken both to reduce costs here, as well as we’ve had to have furloughs in the White House Office.
The President is President of the United States 24 hours a day and 7 days a week, as was the case with every one of the President’s predecessors. And the nature of — the way that he travels is very much a part of the office that he holds and is a requirement of that office, and he needs to be able to conduct his presidency in order to fulfill his obligation to the American people and the oath he took.
So we are, in a variety of ways that I think OMB and others have spelled out, and I can — and we can get you more information on that if you’d like — taking action to reduce costs to deal with the sequester and some of that action includes furloughs. But I don’t have anything more specific for you on that.
Q Thank you. Later this week, the President meets with the President of China out in California. It’s supposed to be partly a getting-acquainted session, but the President is also going to be bringing up hacking — computer hacking and so forth. Does the President want to come away from that meeting with some deliverables?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I would, first of all, make the point that the President is acquainted with President Xi. They met prior to President Xi’s accession to the presidency. But it is important now that he holds that office and President Obama has recently been reelected for this meeting to take place. And President Obama very much looks forward to it.
There is a broad array of topics that the two leaders will discuss, and certainly, cybersecurity will be one of them. I would say that this is a discussion, and we’re not trying to telegraph specific actions or so-called deliverables.
The relationship that we have with China is broad and complex, and it is very important for these kinds of meetings to take place for that relationship to be developed, for us to work on greater cooperation where we have been able to cooperate, find new areas to cooperate, and also confront directly those areas where we disagree. And that has been the approach of this administration in our relations with China from the time the President took office. And we believe it’s the right approach.
Q Mr. Donilon was over there. Did he come back saying it’s going to be really tough on — talking on this subject?
MR. CARNEY: National Security Advisor Tom Donilon had an excellent visit to China where he met with an array of top government officials and military officials and obviously reported back to the President on that meeting.
And the President’s meeting with President Xi will build upon the meetings that National Security Advisor Donilon had. But again, I think that Mr. Donilon felt that his visit was a successful one.
Q On Thursday, is there a legislative tie-in to this visit other than calling attention to this curriculum? Is he going to be asking Congress to do something specific? What’s the –
MR. CARNEY: I don’t want to preview the event or the President’s remarks more than I just did except to say broadly that, yes, the President believes Congress should be focused on what the American people are focused on.
Q What specifically is he –
MR. CARNEY: Again, I’m not going to preview specifics from the President’s event or the remarks, but there are a variety of actions that we believe Congress ought to join us in moving on. You heard the President address some of those, I believe, in his weekly address. And there is ample room for bipartisan action on an agenda that would strengthen the middle class, provide it more security and help it expand.
And the middle class — middle-class opportunity is the absolute cornerstone of our economy, and it has been the primary focus of the President’s domestic policy since the day he took office. It’s the primary focus of his economic and domestic agenda in his second term.
And it’s an important thing to remember that even as we deal with an array of issues here in Washington, that this is the thing — this is the set of issues that the American people broadly care most deeply about because it affects their capacity to have and keep a job that can sustain a middle-class life; their capacity to send their children to college; their capacity to take care of their mothers and fathers as they grow old. And the President is deeply concerned about and focused on the need to make the middle class more secure and to create more opportunity for the middle class.
So that’s why this event is taking place on Thursday. It’s part of a series that he’ll be engaged in, and he absolutely expects Congress to join him in taking action to assist and empower the middle class.
Q To that end, could you tell us if the shrinking of the deficit is making it harder for the President to get the bipartisan deal that he wants with Republicans in order to make all the investments that he talks about on these trips? I mean, he’s been searching for people to negotiate with him, but the deficit is coming down without either side doing anything. So is that having an effect?
MR. CARNEY: Let me take issue with that last sentence, because the deficit is coming down as sharply as it has been because the President and Congress did do something. They took direct action in 2009 that prevented a catastrophic recession from becoming a depression. They took direct action to pass the Affordable Care Act, which has, by any measure, helped bring down the growth in the cost of health care. They took direct action to write and pass a Wall Street reform law that will ensure that the kind of financial crisis that so battered our economy and the global economy cannot happen again. They took direct action to save the American automobile industry, an industry that is very much a part of American history and our sense of who we are, and also a great engine for economic growth and job creation. So let me be clear about that.
But the President thinks we need to continue to take action to invest in our economy so it grows — to ensure that the jobs we need for the 21st century are created here; to ensure that we’re taking action to enhance our energy independence; and to reduce our deficit in a responsible way — to continue to reduce our deficit in a responsible way. And he has had a number of conversations with Republican lawmakers about the need to find common ground on achieving just that.
But he has always looked at it as part of an overall approach to economic policy that is focused first and foremost on economic growth and job creation; and as part of that project, responsible deficit reduction.
So he believes that we can do that. He believes that there are Republicans who want to do that, and we just have to see if there is a coalescing of will to make it happen. You’ve seen the President’s offers. They were very explicit in his budget — very explicit in his budget as a reflection of the offer he made at the end of last year. And the offer is on the table, and it demonstrates the President’s willingness to compromise, demonstrates the seriousness with which he approaches these issues, and he hopes that he’ll find partners in moving it forward.
Q Earlier this spring, a lot of attention was paid to the so-called “charm offensive”. The President took Republican lawmakers out to dinner and had meetings with them and called them on the phone. And I’m wondering if that outreach has continued, or was that sort of a one-time, kind of one-moment deal?
MR. CARNEY: Well, first of all, it can’t be one time if there were a series of meetings and conversations and dinners. Those conversations continue. It was fairly recently that Senator McCain — who is obviously a leading Republican in the Senate and a major player on a variety of key issues, both domestic and national security — was here visiting the President. And we will continue to have those engagements both at the presidential level and at the sub-presidential level.
The President is sincere in this effort. He believes that we can find common ground, both on deficit reduction and budget issues as well as on immigration reform — because some of these conversations and meetings the President has had with Republican lawmakers haven’t just been on deficit reduction and budgets, they’ve been on immigration reform. They were and will continue to be, hopefully, on ways we can reduce gun violence. They’ll be on and have been on ways that we can invest in our economy and build out our infrastructure to create jobs now and help our economy grow in the future. So that effort continues.
Q Are there some more recent engagements you can tell us about?
MR. CARNEY: You mean in the last few days? You can’t declare something over after a few days, Phil. I think that we need to — everybody needs to take a breath. And I know that the media cycle is what it is, but the President is fully engaged with members of Congress in both parties and will continue to be.
And he has pressed with — in every one of these meetings, for a willingness to find common ground. He has shown his willingness to compromise, and he has been encouraged by the sentiments expressed by some Republican lawmakers to do the same. And where there are opportunities to find that compromise and get something done on behalf of the American people, the President will seize them, and he’ll continue to have those conversations in search of them.
Q I want to go back to China. It wasn’t clear to me from your answer to Roger’s question whether there will be deliverables come out of that. And just what would you expect to come out of it? Would there be some sort of a joint statement? Any appearance? Can you tell us anything about the format over Friday evening and Saturday?
MR. CARNEY: Well, we’ll have more details about the specifics of the engagements and the conversations. But the two Presidents plan to discuss the full range of diplomatic, economic and security issues on the U.S.-China agenda — from the perspective of identifying shared interests and finding ways to work together to solve regional and global challenges, and discussing how to manage differences in a manner that ensures a stable and productive bilateral relationship. They’ll talk about their domestic economic situations — these are the two largest economies in the world — and the steps that each will take to promote sustained international — sustained, rather, and balanced global growth because of the impact that these two economies have on global growth.
I think it’s important, while I wanted to assure Roger that it wasn’t just a get-to-know-you session, that this is more — it’s deeper than that; that this is not a 1970s-style summit where there are pre-negotiated outcomes. This is very much part of an ongoing engagement that we have with the Chinese leadership at the presidential level and at all the levels in government. And it’s very important, because of the size of our economies, the interdependence that we have as engines of global economic growth, the various issues where we cooperate, and the various issues where we don’t see eye to eye on all things. And so sustaining that relationship and maintaining that engagement is very critical in the interest of the United States globally.
Q Will there be any access for the press to the leaders? Any questions?
MR. CARNEY: I’m not sure that we’ve announced anything yet. We’ve been working through that, and hopefully we’ll have more specifics for you in the near future.
Q How might this redefine the whole Asia pivot? Because up until now, it’s been really a — seemed to be that the United States reasserting itself in the Pacific Rim region, reassuring the other Pacific Rim nations that it stands as a bulwark against China. So how does this fit this effort to sort of reset relations with the two leaders more personal? How does that fit into the more general Asia policy?
MR. CARNEY: We’ve made clear, or tried to, that our rebalancing, our pivoting to Asia has not been against any nation, not against China, but for the important role that the United States has traditionally and needs to continue to play in that region. The President made clear as a candidate and after he took office that he felt that we had, as a nation, turned away from Asia because of our largely understandable focus on the Middle East, but that that came at a cost to long-term U.S. interests. And he was determined to rebalance our foreign policy and our international economic policy in a way that made clear the importance that Asia — the importance of Asia and the role that Asia plays in the 21st century, both economically and on security matters.
But this is not a zero-sum thing; it’s not against China at all. And that’s why our engagement with China is part of the overall rebalancing, part of the focus on Asia that we need as a nation because of the explosive economic growth in the region, because of the huge potential in the region, because of the need to maintain stability and foster the expansion of economic growth and human rights in the region.
So we — it doesn’t contrast with the effort we’ve been making; it complements it in our view. And I would note that, throughout this period, we have — the President has engaged frequently with his Chinese counterpart, President Xi’s predecessor. And we have, as an administration, have engaged with Chinese leadership all along, even as we have engaged in Asia and deepened our presence in Asia in a variety of different ways with a variety of different nations.
Yes, Mark, and then April.
Q Does the President have a view on this issue? The Supreme Court decided today whether the police have a right to take DNA samples from people who are being booked, who have been arrested as opposed to having to wait until they’ve been –
MR. CARNEY: I haven’t had that conversation with him. The decision had come down before the meeting I had with him or that I was in with him, but it did not come up in the meeting, so I don’t know.
Q — take that question?
MR. CARNEY: I don’t know that we’ll have a comment on the case from here, but if we do, we’ll be sure to get it to you.
Q Following up on Supreme Court issues and matters — the Supreme Court is supposed to make a decision on voting rights, whether to uphold certain portions of voting rights. Is the White House expecting — bracing for disappointment on that? Because as late as February, some persons within the administration were saying that they didn’t hold out a lot of hope.
MR. CARNEY: Well, I don’t want to prejudge a decision that has not been produced yet by the Supreme Court, so I won’t do that. But this is obviously an issue that we consider very important and we will look with interest upon the decision. But before we see it, I think I’ll refrain from commenting on it.
Q And also, another question. This weekend was very loud with that quote, “paid liar.”
MR. CARNEY: Oh. I didn’t know what you meant by very loud, but okay. (Laughter.)
Q That quote was very loud — I’m just telling you — and it brought you into focus, and you are the mouthpiece for the President and his White House. Did the President talk to you about that?
MR. CARNEY: April, I won’t get into my personal conversations with the President. I can just tell you that I am not interested in a back and forth with the Chairman. I am interested in what I believe most who in Washington are looking at this issue are interested in, which is what the President’s focus is on, which is that we need to get — make sure we know everything that happened here and that those who were responsible for inappropriate conduct are held accountable, and that actions are taken so that it doesn’t happen again. And that’s our focus.
So I appreciate the effort to get me to get into a back and forth , but I’m not going to do it.
Q That’s not bringing you into a back and forth. I mean, you talked about the back and forth in the front row. I’m now asking you, as the person who is the speaker for the White House beyond — I mean, you’re the first line, I guess, before the President, and you have now been brought into the fray with this with your spin. Did the President discuss this with you after that quote became so loud this weekend?
MR. CARNEY: I haven’t — well, I’m not going to get into conversations — personal conversations, private conversations with the President — between me and the President or the President and anyone else. What I will tell you is that we’re focused on the substantive issues. And I think that that comment has been evaluated by plenty of people, and I will refrain from doing it myself.
Q Jay, can you say — Secretary Kerry said earlier today that the U.S. is going to sign the U.N. Arms Treaty. Do you have any idea of when the President might do that? And do you have any updates?
MR. CARNEY: I don’t have a timing announcement to make. I think, as you’re aware, or those of you who follow this issue know, that while we look forward to signing the treaty, there are remaining translation issues that have to be satisfactorily resolved. Because of the procedures involved, we anticipate this will not happen before the end of August.
So I don’t have anything more specific for you, but I think as you — if you’ve followed this, there’s been an issue because the treaty — I think the treaty was negotiated in English but then, obviously, translated into a number of languages, as is common, and there were some discrepancies found in those translations that need to be resolved. And that will take some time.
Q Do you have any expectations about that it will get through the Senate?
MR. CARNEY: I don’t have any predictions to make. We obviously look forward to signing it and we believe it’s in the interest of the United States, and we’ll work on furthering that effort once we get it signed.
I think I’ve been told to wrap it up, so thanks very much.
3 June 2013